Sundance Review: Fair Play Explores Volatile Gender Dynamics at Work and at Home

Rarely does a first-time director launch out of the gate with as much force and conviction as writer-director Chloe Domont does with Fair Play, a work that examines the power dynamic between a young, good-looking couple who are secretly dating while they both work as brokers at a competitive New York financial firm. 

Getting engaged at the beginning of the movie, Emily (Phoebe Dynevor) and Luke (Alden Ehrenreich) are a highly sexual couple who practically emit lightning bolts from their eyes when they see each other at work. She catches wind through the rumor mill that Luke is about to get promoted, and she’s thrilled knowing she’s likely close behind. But after a late-night meeting with their boss (Eddie Marsan), it turns out that Emily is the one getting the job, and while Luke puts on his best face in support, the self-emasculation dance begins in his head almost immediately.

I suspect everyone who watches this film is going to see things shift (or not shift) differently, but from my perspective, Emily doesn’t change at all. In fact, she attempts to get Luke noticed by the higher-ups for his crack research, and it blows up in her face when she realizes her boss merely tolerates Luke, at best. And as his desperate ambition gets the best of him, he starts making mistakes that cost the firm millions, further shifting the dynamic in their relationship and causing him to descend into paranoia.

Fair Play is an astonishing work, driven by two terrific lead performances. The film looks honestly and unblinkingly at gender roles, both in the workplace and in relationships, and when Luke starts questioning how Emily got her new job in the first place, we know that the end is nigh; the only question is, “The end of what?” The movie’s final act is explosive, shocking, and clearly borrows from the headspace that gave us the seismic shift that was 2021’s Promising Young Woman (that’s a good thing). The film feels dangerous at times, volatile, and isn’t afraid to get ugly when it needs to. I absolutely can’t wait to see how the world responds to this one (I suspect it will be divisive) and what filmmaker Domont has in store for us next.

Did you enjoy this post? Please consider supporting Third Coast Review’s arts and culture coverage by making a donation. Choose the amount that works best for you, and know how much we appreciate your support! 

Steve Prokopy
Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet
Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for
Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and
filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a
frequent contributor at /Film ( and Backstory Magazine.
He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently
owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for
the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer
for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the
city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.

Plan Your Life with 3CR Highlights

Join Our Newsletter today!